Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s an effective method though not a very pleasant one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain lets you know that severe ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a particular set of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
No one’s really certain what causes hyperacusis, although it’s frequently associated with tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some instances, neurological concerns). There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability with the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- You might experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and discomfort will be.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies. You never know when a wonderful night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why it’s so essential to get treatment. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
One of the most frequently implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out specific wavelengths. So those unpleasant frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
A less state-of-the-art approach to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech method. Your overall hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re considering using earplugs.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you respond to certain types of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Generally, this approach has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Less common methods
Less common methods, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed results.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be created. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.